The Central Zoo at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo has been home to Ron and Penelope, two American Alligators, for more than 15 years. Both of these reptiles are native to the southeastern U.S.
Ron is significantly larger than Penelope, weighing in at 350 pounds and stretching over 10 feet in length. Meanwhile, Penelope tips the scales at 200 pounds and is about 6 feet long.
The best time to see these alligators is during that mornings – that’s when they’re most active. They’re usually taking a dip in their heated pool then. By the afternoon, they’ll typically be outside soaking up some sun. The reason they do this is because they’re exothermic, meaning their body temperature becomes the temperature of their environment.
The gators eat three times a week – because they have such low metabolisms, that’s how often they need to eat. Zoo staff feed Ron and Penelope rats, jello, and gator biscuits. The zookeepers also do target training with Ron and Penelope each and every day to help move them through the exhibit.
American Alligators aren’t endangered, but they once were. According to zookeeper Britni Plummer:
Alligators are actually a conservation success story. So, they were endangered in the 1960s and they were put on the endangered species Act in 1967, I think, and that’s because people were taking them and making purses and boots and everything else out of them. So, when that happened, it cut down on that a lot, and so now, they’re least concern.
You can visit Ron and Penelope in the Central Zoo this summer!
Wild on WANE airs each Thursday on First News and First At 5, and each weekend on First News Saturday.